If we are what we eat, surely superfoods are a way to ensure youthful cells stick around for a while longer.
The term #superfood is increasingly being used in the media as a marketing tool to promote one product or another, so if you haven’t heard it yet, you’d be in the minority.
Firstly, consider this: Any natural whole food is nutritious and beneficial as long as it is consumed in reasonable amounts – bearing in mind that the recommended daily quantities for each are dependant on a number of factors including what food we’re talking about, but also: your size, disposition, lifestyle, climate, season, amongst others – and, the food has not been treated with artificial chemicals during any stage of its development.
Just to clarify, when I say ‘artificial’ I mean highly processed. After all, everything on this earth, including chemical concoctions, comes from our environment one way or another. It is the over-processing, synthesising and cocktail-making that tends to make them dangerous to our health and/or the environment.
So what exactly are ‘superfoods‘?
The term appears to first be referenced by Aaron Moss in the August 1998 edition of the journal ‘Nature Nutrition’, which stated,
“Humans have many options when it comes to fueling their bodies, but the benefits of some options are so nutritious that they might be labeled as superfoods.“
Today, superfood is a term used in a wide variety of contexts to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits that outweigh properties considered to be negative, such as being high in saturated fats or artificial ingredients, food additives or contaminants.
Interestingly, the term is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists and there is no legal definition of the term. As in legal terms it has no standing, in the European Union its use has been regulated since July 2007 and the marketing of products as ‘superfoods’ is prohibited unless accompanied by a specific medical claim supported by credible scientific research.
The research however, seems lacking and scientists say that the term superfood is being misleadingly used simply as a marketing tool.
It’s time to squash the myths.
The stigma associated with the word is that superfoods are exotic ingredients from far-away lands. In reality, superfoods are simply everyday foods that pack a higher nutritional punch for the amount of calories per serve.
Every corner of the world has its own superfoods. And this is important to consider when planning your next meal, as all native foods are perfectly aligned to the environmental and climatic needs of the land.
The whole is always better than the sum of its parts.
Get stuck into plenty of whole foods. The complex reactions of wholefoods in your body provide the positive nutritional outcomes. There’s nothing magical about getting 100% of your daily dose of a nutrient in isolation – your body can’t absorb it.
Proper vitamin absorption depends on levels of other, complimentary nutrient cofactors. For example, for our body to be able to make use of an Iron supplement, we also need to ensure adequate levels of vitamin C; Similarly, for the body to be able to synthesise vitamin D tablets, relevant levels of zinc and magnesium are necessary; Oleic acid helps cell membranes become more suple, enabling absorption of omega-3 oils. Basically, if not properly balanced with its ‘matching’ ingredient, the body will simply eliminate the expensive supplement.
Identifying nutrient-rich, health-promoting star performers that give your body a recharge and help protect your future health, are not hard to identify. Limiting the list is.
Some foods often referred to as a superfoods (check out the links for more info on each):
- Berries: Particularly Acai, Goji and Blueberries.
- Cocoa: It is the cocoa that gives the great health benefits and dark chocolate is made with much higher levels of cocoa and, significantly lower levels of sweetener.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Such as Broccoli, Kale, Cabbage (fermented is even better for its added probiotic properties).
- Flaxseed or Linseed
- Green tea
- Herbs: In general, many have been used over centuries for their medicinal properties.
- Leafy greens
- Legumes: All types of beans.
- Soy products: Naturally fermented, as the much faster commercial ‘fermentation’ does not remove the toxic ingredient from the membrane.
- Whole grains: Especially oats, whole wheat, barley (Bran contains non-soluble fibre, hence is not as beneficial).
- Wild salmon: Farmed salmon is fed with chemically processed food pellets that transfer into the flesh of the fish.
- Yoghurt and Kefir: Can be non-dairy as it is the probiotic in the culture that is the beneficial ingredient.
Be weary of processed packaged foods that are marketed as superfoods.
Taken out of the context, a superfood ingredient in a sugar-filled snackbar may at first seem like a healthy alternative, but watch for the hidden negatives. The superfood ingredient/s may be present, but if also packed with artificial ingredients, salt, processed sugar and/or saturated fats (great to keep you warm in the snow, but not at other times) – all of which should be consumed in minimal quantities, if at all – Best stay clear!
The recipe for healthy eating is easy.
Most people are aware of the ‘food pyramid‘ which provides a simple overview for a balanced diet – We need to eat from all food groups, in relevant proportions.
A less known, and an even simpler way to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients is to Eat by colour. Yes, COLOUR. In plants, colour is an uncanny indicator of a particular nutrient richness. The brighter, the deeper the colour, the better. And we need all of them, so eat a rainbow!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” [Hippocrates]
FOR THE CURIOUS:
- Mayo Clinic: Top health foods
- Mayo clinic: Nutrition and healthy eating
- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
- Associated Press, April 6th, 2005: “Superfoods go beyond regular nutrition”
- Dr. Perricone’s 10 Superfoods You Should Add to Your Diet Today